Fathers and Fathers-in-Law and Marriage

Original Airdates: February 22, 23, 25 (2011)

This is Living Stories, featuring voices from the collections of the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. I'm Kim Patterson.

Proposals and marriages are usually cause for nervousness, and oftentimes fathers, though well-meaning, add to the anxiety.

Chester P. Rutigliano of Del Rio met his wife-to-be in his hometown of Ridgway, Pennsylvania, after he returned from service in WWII. He explains the difficulties his father brought to his proposal plans:

"To get engaged, my father said, ‘I'm going with you.' See, in Italian, he have to go with you. I said, ‘Okay, Pop. Tomorrow we're going to go there, and I'm getting engaged.' He said, ‘All right.' So we wait and—that next day—we wait and we wait and we wait. I said, ‘Where the hell is Pop?' I told my mother. ‘I don't know.' Finally, here he comes, drunk as hell. He said, ‘Chester, I'll go with you, and you give the ring to Rosie.' I said, ‘Pop, I can't take you because you go in that house and her mother's going to throw you out the door and me too. I can't.' ‘No, you can't go!'"

Rutigliano left his father at home that evening and went to Rosie's house alone to propose. He describes his father's reaction:

"Well, next morning, I got up. ‘Hey, Celestino!' ‘Yeah, Pop.' ‘I feel better. We'll go tonight. You give the ring to Rosie.' I said, ‘Pop, I hate to tell you; I already engage.' That did it. I thought the house going to explode. He got so mad at me: ‘You know I supposed to be there!' I said, ‘Yeah, Pop, but you were so dang drunk, I couldn't take you. That's why. So we got engaged last night.'"

Robert C. Martin of Victoria, former manager of radio station KNAL, recalls how he met a young woman from Sweden in early 1971:

"She was visiting her brother and sister-in-law, who were my neighbors. And they conveniently got ill, and I had to show her this part of the country. So it was my job; you know, we just had to do that. So we had a very beautiful, quick romance, and I proposed to her. And she said, ‘Well, I'll think about it.' And she went back to Sweden, and she left me waving with this sweaty palm, very nervous about it."

The girl from Sweden, Carin, said yes, and she returned to Texas to marry Martin in February of 1971. But Martin was not through yet being nervous:

"And that Christmas, I went back to Sweden and met her family. Of course, they probably are very anxious to find out what kind of guy did she marry in Texas. And in Sweden, they have what you call Schnapps. It's a liquor drink in a little, small container. And you drink this—you chugalug it—and then you bring it down, and you meet eyes with the person. And you say, ‘Skol, skol.' Well, her father gave me that treatment. And I thought, This man is really checking me out. (laughter) Boy, he locked eyes with me, and if I had any deficiencies they were going to show up immediately."

The Rutigliano and Martin couples both survived the actions of well-intentioned fathers to enjoy long-lasting, successful marriages.

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